tv Mosaic World News LINKTV October 9, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm PDT
so your imagination is forced to take over, which i think is the key to how noir material works on the subconscious. (woman) in here, walter. (john bailey) a lighting technique that became a signature of the noir films was the venetian blind, which was an effective way for the director of photography to create an interesting and unusual lighting pattern on an otherwise blank wall. and would create interesting psychological effects, depending upon the way they were slanted and adjusted. (romantic music playing) almost universally in noir film you see a tremendous sparseness in the production design. sets have very simple and functional furniture.
the walls tend to be just painted flats. you have the visual environment to create a tremendous sense of dramatic isolation and alienation. and that was part of the whole conceit of noir, of using lighting techniques to alter space psychologically. you can't underestimate the german influence in it all. and all the german expatriates who were filling the ranks of the hollywood crafts as well as director and writer. and they brought with them a dramatic and visual tradition that was very different from the more vaudeville or the more showman tradition of american films of the time. (john bailey) fritz lang did a trilogy of early gangster films, of the mabuse trilogy which had tremendous influence, not only in german cinema, but also in this country.
even going back before that, "the cabinet of dr. caligari," the sets were built in false perspective. tremendous sense of light and dark contrasts. tilted angles, foregrounding of objects. these became very prominent, i think, in film noir. (abraham polonsky) objects are not things that happen to be in a room. objects are things that we deal with in living. so floors are objects. the position of people towards each other are objects. when you make a movie you pay attention to everything all the time, or you're not making a movie. what you're doing is just photographing something. what are you trying to do? i'm trying to strap you to the electric chair. we don't like innocent people blown away. (john bailey) noir photography was concerned with showing environment. i'm going to make you pay. they're trying to railroad me.
i don't know why, i never stole dynamite. (john bailey) so the deep focus, foreground and background focus being equally sharp and a tremendous visual field opening up behind the actors gave a sense of environment and became a strong element in the noir vocabulary. take him in and book him. let's go. you say you found dynamite in the bathroom? yeah, well, pete found it. show him the dynamite, pete. can't you do something to help me? the deep focus was used in conjunction with wide lens. it was also used as a way of staging a scene without having to do a lot of coverage. a foreground actor would appear quite close to camera, a background actor would come in. they play a dialogue scene in one shot, the two actors, not looking at each other. foreground actor looking out this way, the background actor looking at the back of an actor's head.
they can't see each other, but are in a scene together. i'm here to arrest you. (john bailey) it's fine for the audience because they can see both. and the conceit seemed to work. it wouldn't work today because you'd want close-ups, you'd want to see the actors turn to each other. but it was a common method of shooting sometimes a three- four-minute scene in one shot because they had very short shooting schedules. get the young lady. anybody making a b-picture wanted to make a-pictures. so what we were trying to do was to impress somebody, usually the executives at the studio. and you couldn't impress them with the subject matter, because it was usually pretty trite. you couldn't impress them with the acting, which was not usually of the best. but you could impress them with setups for instance. i learned about setups on b-pictures primarily because i had to be inventive as hell. i wanted the executives who were looking at the rushes to look and say, "hey, that guy's got -- you know that guy really knows where to put his camera."
(woman) i hope it's not too crowded. (edward dmytryk) joe lewis was wonderful with setups, really wonderful. (joe lewis) we took a stretch-out cadillac and removed everything from it and in it they laid down a 2-by-12 board. on top of that they put a little high hat and camera. and then they put a jockey seat for the operator. it was the first time they've ever used "button microphones." we had them all over the place, inside, outside. and then strapped to the top, we had two sound men with fish poles stretched way out with mikes. (man) i hope i won't be longer than i have to. (joe lewis) i got the two of them together and i said, "you know what you're up to. you run into town, look for a parking space. he's going to go in the bank, he's going to rob the bank.
a policeman will to come out, you're going to knock him on the head and get away." that's right, stand right there, okay? (joe lewis) whatever dialogue you want between you, whatever comes up, that's how you react. hi. well, that's a nice getup. i like it. good-looking gun. thanks. that's english? that's right. what show you with? (joe lewis) i was supposed to shoot that and had a four-day schedule. we shot it in about three hours. and far better i'm sure than what was in the script with the interior of the bank and the people laying down and the guy's holding their hands up and all that. we left it to the audience's imagination and suggestion. (ringing of alarm)
take off. all right. i told you to stay in the car. (joe lewis) the shot was so real, people on the street yelled, "they held up the bank!" and we kept on going, photographing as we went. the shot took two miles. two miles and without a cut. (paul arthur) a large portion of hollywood's technical community learned documentary technique working either within the u.s., or for various branches of the armed forces and so they were more schooled in how to shoot in a more raw, less studio-bound, less stylized fashion. and i also think the experience of the american public with documentaries during the war led to a greater acceptance of semi-documentary realism
in fiction films. shooting on location, it's a must for film noir because film noir is reality. it's reality as is. (man's thoughts) i just kept going down and down. it was like going down to the bottom of the world, to find my brother. (andre de toth) no matter how many great art directors you have you cannot afford to make it so used as a street is. it's impossible. somehow you feel it, even if you don't see it. that's the magic of film. you never know how it happens but it does happen. of course it was against all the studio rules. "we have the back lot, shoot it there." "i spent $2 million on that street, use it." (man's thoughts) i found my brother's body at the bottom there, where they had thrown it away on the rocks, by the river, like an old rag nobody wants. he was dead. (martin scorsese) it's incredible city poetry, this body there, lying there.
you know, i come from an area where sometimes you'd see a body in the street that way. it was important for film noir to represent real cities, not these vague constructions on a studio back lot. (narrator) christmas eve in new york. (paul arthur) but to use the look of the city as a part of its stylistic web. (jean-pierre gorin) when you're in the city, you've got a space which is immediately dramatic. and you've got immediately -- you're in a universe which is maze-like and claustrophobic. the characters arewaike smas in an aquarium where all sorts of stuff is happening. look at the first sequence of "pickup on south street." one guy, whose job is to steal purses, open purses, a pickpocket in a subway.
(paul arthur) the number of underground spots that we see in film noir is quite phenomenal. underground garages and subways and sewer systems. it's a manifestation of the underworld, of this secret labyrinth where criminals hide in shadows this is the image, representing a modern hell. (paul schrader) in dealing with a doomed world, you go for visual correlatives. it's hard to do a doom story on a pleasant, sunny day. (dramatic music playing) (martin scorsese) the image of richard widmark running in the streets in "night and the city" is a seminal film noir image. you can't think of them without thinking of the image of a man running in the street at night.
(dramatic music playing) something is more -- it's more dramatic. it's more dramatic. and the characters that come out at night are more fascinating, i think. that's really what it's about. (heavy breathing) (a.j. bezzerides) i think our world is headed for chaos and not very many people seem to be shivering about it. we ought to be shivering in our boots right now. well, i'm so tired of gangster pictures by then, i'd seen them all and so forth, that i thought the new feelings should be put into it and i made it more political. (a.j. bezzerides) writers shouldn't separate themselves from their reality. they should bring the reality to what they're doing. how did you get that?
(a.j. bezzerides) at that time in the 50s, the nuclear stuff was new and it was kind of frightening what was going on. manhattan project, los alamos, trinity. (a.j. bezzerides) i was affected strongly by what i read in the papers, what i'd heard on the comments on the radio and television. and these somehow got into the story. i think a story of this kind should have that same feeling because we live in a world, we're not living in a movie. and the movie should reflect the world, the motion pictures should reflect the world in some way. when i saw "kiss me deadly" when i was 12 years old i didn't understand it. i had no idea what was happening in it. it was shocking and very strong, but to this day, the end, i don't quite understand, but it's one of the pivotal films. (a.j. bezzerides) at the very end, the girl wants it, boy, she wants it, then she flings open the box. she doesn't know. she thinks it's something precious that's measured in dollars and cents. but it has to do with security, the future and man's existence.
(screams) well, it obviously ends with a holocaust, you know. this doomed character finally finds the bomb and the world is over. and it's sort of the -- it prefigures "strangelove," which carries that to the same degree in a comic fashion. but it's just a matter of these doomed characters, when are they finally going to explode and then take the world with them? (explosion) (paul schrader) it's sort of the end of the line, you can't go much further. (announcer) dominating one half the world, communism stays solidly opposed
to the western concept of democracy. with over 750 million people under communist rule, nearly one-third of the population of the earth, soviet russia holds a commanding position in the future destiny of the world. since world war ii ... (new announcer) it is a way of life, an evil, malignant way of life. it reveals a condition akin to disease that spreads like an epidemic and like an epidemic, a quarantine is necessary to keep it from infecting us. i guess huac is the transition. that's how america moved into the cold war. moved from the post-war era into the eisenhower era. i guess that critical period there from '52 to '54, where the shift occurred with the red scare movies and then where communists started becoming the villains.
the noir cycle or series ends for a number of reasons. the mood of the country shifts, from a dominant anxiety. the 50s key word is togetherness. (announcer) the public has been told that television has finally emerged from the experimental phase. and curiosity alone is expected to sell thousands of sets. (paul arthur) the nuclear family, the turn towards a private suburban existence, away from the conflicts of modern man in the city. (narrator) some say that was the end of film noir, but i don't see it that way. film noir was a look, a tone, a feel. the shadows are still deadly, murder still stalks the streets love and violence still share the same bed.
and fate can still put the finger on you for no good reason at all. life doesn't change, cause people don't change. (upbeat music playing) (martin scorsese) "mean streets" became a very clear attempt at doing a film noir in color. what i was trying to do is blend what i knew as reality with that style. what are you doing? what do you mean, what am i doing? (martin scorsese) a theme of a young man trying to hustle money and being in conflict with some very powerful forces and not understanding the danger he's in until everything around him falls to pieces. what did he say? he said i didn't pay him? he's a f--- liar, where is he? you paid him? yeah. last week? yeah. last tuesday? yeah.
(martin scorsese) i think of it as noir in that i love the noir film. in that as much as possible an homage, my version of noir. but in reality i was trying to get as close as possible to my experience. now, wait a minute. what? well, you're right. i'm right? yeah, was it -- last tuesday? yeah, that's last week, before the one next week. i guess i'm responding to hearing my uncle speak or my aunt or my father talk about films they liked, but they said, "oh, that scene, you know what they did." he said, "no, but they'd never show that, though." or "they'll never show the -- the real workings of how these guys in organized crime deal with each other." or, "the real workings of a guy who really owes money." so my intention was: why not? why not really show it? i borrow money from you cause you're the only jerk-off that i can borrow money from without paying back, right? ya know that's what you are -- that's what i think of you, a jerk-off.
(joe bailey) color brings in a certain level of relationship to reality. i mean, the real world is in color. film noir, black and white is abstracted, more stylized. i don't give 2 s--- for you or nobody else. i think there've been a number of color films that have used noir elements, both visually, stylistically and in terms of character and plot, themes. arthur penn comes to mind. "bonnie and clyde," "night moves." certainly "chinatown," i think, pre-eminently. larry kasdan's, "body heat." what's your name, anyway? ned racine. maddy walker. wow, you all right?
yes, i'm fine. my temperature runs a couple of degrees high, 100. i don't mind, the engine or something. maybe you need a tuneup. don't tell me, you have the right tool? i don't talk like that. when i started out i didn't know if i would ever get to direct another film after "body heat." so i wrote something i thought i could get through and would give me the license to go very stylish. i had never directed anything except for a few student films and i wanted to do everything with a camera i could think of. so i picked a genre that gave you enormous license for that, which was film noir. that's it. that's it. we're going to kill him and i think i know how. it's real then? it's real all right. if we're not careful,
it's going to be the last real thing we do. (lawrence kasdan) i wrote a sort of standard film noir story, but it was really about something else for me. it was really about something that i was seeing in friends, which was this desire to hit the big score very quickly. and that's really the story for the central character. he just sort of is impatient and things aren't going as well or as pleasurably, as sensually as he would like. and a woman comes into his life that seems to open the door, where he can have everything he wants, immediately. he has a gun. where? (thump, gunshot)
(thud) (lawrence kasdan) the character of ned racine that bill hurt plays is not so very different from a lot of people i know and a certain american type. in fact, the villainess, if she can be called that, has the same kind of drives. she's just a hardworking woman who wants to get it all. if you never trust in me again, you'd probably be smart. but you must believe one thing, i love you. i love you and i need you. (john bailey) violence and sexuality have become much more graphic. i think a key element in noir was that tension or repression. filmmaking techniques have also become so much slicker. there's a lot more money available. we don't make b-movies really that deal with that material.
b-movies tend to be like slasher films and so forth. a-movies usually have a very strong production budget and design budget. and film noir films inherently were b-movies, low-budget. and they had certain physical limitations and restrictions that became part of the filmmaking vocabulary. and i don't think we use those so much anymore. there's been many attempts to emulate that style. but that style was tied to a time and a place. and that time and place is gone. if somebody wanted to make a film using that dialogue, that very terse, chandler, hemingway dialogue, would it sell today? i don't know. i don't think so. i do really feel this genre is a historical genre. when you speak of german expressionism,
you speak of a specific time. when you speak of the nouvelle vague, that's a specific time. and the film noir is a specific time. we don't make film noir anymore. it's just semantics, you know, what makes noir? who defines noir? who defines american films? who defines what's good and bad in american movies? the dangerous thing is in any moment in history we have some machine, some cultural, critical media working to define what's good and bad. but it's all up for grabs. we'll know in maybe 50 years from now, we'll look back and see what stood the test of time. people didn't change in 40 years. so if you have seen life truly 40 years ago, it should stand up today. of course, some of the problems are slightly different, but basic human problems are still the same. look, mister, i'm so tired, you'd be doing me a big favor